NBA playoffs: Postseason offers parity and purity

    Golden State's Stephen Curry reacts after making a 3-pointer against Portland in Game 2 of an opening-round series. (Photo by Ezra Shaw /Getty Images)
    BY JOE KNOWLES

    Chicago Tribune

    April 21, 2017

    Parity or purity? Good thing or bad thing? Call it what you like, but the NBA doesn't seem concerned by the fact that No. 1 or No. 2 seeds win an overwhelming majority of the league' titles.

    When someone points out that No. 1 or No. 2 seeds have won 10 of the last 12 championships — the other two were won by No. 3 seeds — the NBA counters by saying that the league has had six different champs in the past seven seasons.

    "Over a 82-game season, the best teams rise to the top," NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer Mark Tatum said Thursday at the league's annual meeting with a group of sports editors.

    Based on that logic, it only figures that those teams prevail in the postseason. That's purity.

    "The top teams win," Tatum said, "but it's not the same top teams."

    And there's your parity.

    In the other major sports, top seeds aren't nearly as dominant in the playoffs, and bottom seeds even win an occasional championship. In the NFL, six wild-card teams have won the Super Bowl. Six wild-card teams have won the World Series, including three in a row from 2002-2004. The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup as a No. 8 seed in 2012.

    A No. 8 seed has never won an NBA title and only one — the Knicks in the strike-shortened 1998-99 season — has ever reached the Finals.

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    OU women's gymnastics seeks third title in four years

    The Oklahoma women's gymnastics team tied for the 2014 NCAA crown with Florida and won the national title outright last season.
    BY JOHN ROHDE

    SoonerSports.com Contributor

    April 13, 2017

    Oklahoma women’s gymnastics coach K.J. Kindler said she could feel the crowd pulling for her team to win at the 2014 NCAA Championships in Birmingham, Ala.

    At that time, only five schools had won national titles since the NCAA first sanctioned the sport in 1982 – Georgia (10), Utah (9), Alabama (6), UCLA (6) and defending champion Florida (1). The up-and-coming Sooners were the team of the moment.

    For the first and only time in NCAA women’s gymnastics, there wound up being national co-champions as OU and Florida finished with identical scores of 198.175 three years ago. The Sooners happily embraced their role as co-champions after the Gators had edged OU for the 2013 NCAA crown by a margin of 0.200 (197.575-197.375).

    Well, times have changed.

    The Sooners were the 2016 national champs all by themselves and will seek back-to-back crowns when the NCAA Championships are held Friday and Saturday at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis. OU will compete in Semifinal I at noon Friday against No. 4 Utah, No. 5 UCLA, No. 8 Oregon State, No. 9 Denver and No. 13 Washington. The top three finishers from Semifinal I and Semifinal II advance to the NCAA “Super Six” on Saturday night to compete for the national title.

    Fresh off their fifth undefeated regular season under Kindler, the defending champs are this weekend’s No. 1 seed for a multitude of reasons, the most recent of which came April 1 at the NCAA Seattle Regional, where the Sooners posted a nation-high 198.075 in regional competition. OU entered the meet with a program record with a regional qualifying score (RQS) of 198.010.

    OU’s overall excellence this season frequently has been perfection with four gymnasts combining for nine perfect 10.0s. Though only a freshman, Maggie Nichols already owns the school career record with six and scored at least one 10.0 in every event, becoming just the ninth collegiate gymnast to ever do so. Senior McKenzie Wofford and sophomore Nicole Lehrmann each earned a 10.0 on the uneven bars and senior Chayse Capps scored a 10.0 on the balance beam. Six OU gymnasts earned a nation-best 14 regular-season All-America honors this season, with junior AJ Jackson and sophomore Brenna Dowell joining the aforementioned perfectionists. (Dowell scored a 10.0 in 2015 on uneven bars.)

    Seventeen of OU’s scores this season rank in the top 10 in program history.

    Suffice to say, the Sooners no longer are up-and-coming. They have reached the summit and have no intention of descending anytime soon.

    “They have a target on their back,” Kindler said of her team. “People are gunning for them. Everyone roots for the underdog, and that’s not us. Now there’s that expectation and pressure knowing people are gunning for you. We just need to focus on ourselves and not on that.”

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    Updated list of best golfer never to have won a major

    Former Oklahoma State standout Rickie Fowler is still searching for his first major.
    BY GOLF DIGEST

    March 31, 2017

    Ahhh, the everlasting best-golfer-never-to-have-won-a-major debate.

    The 2016 season produced four first-time major champs in Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Jimmy Walker.

    As we approach the 2017 Masters, Golf Digest put a new formula to work to determine who are the best current players who haven't hoisted a trophy at one of golf's four biggest events.

    Golf Digest only used results from the past two years, so heartbreak veterans like Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood took a hit. Not that they should mind. If you're on his list for too long, the last thing you want is to be reminded about it.

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    Federer tops Nadal for his 18th Slam title

    Roger Federer Australian Open
    Roger Federer celebrates his fifth Australian Open title. Getty

    MELBOURNE, Australia -- Roger Federer won his 18th Grand Slam title and put some extra distance on the all-time list between himself and Rafael Nadal, the man he beat 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in a vintage Australian Open final on Sunday night.

    It was the 35-year-old Federer's first major title since Wimbledon in 2012, his first in Australia since 2010, and it reversed the status quo against his nemesis, Nadal.

    Both players were returning from extended layoffs -- Federer for six months after Wimbledon with an injured left knee; Nadal for a couple of months with an injured left wrist -- and were seeded 17th and ninth respectively.

    "It's been a different last six months, I wasn't sure I was going to make it here but here I am -- we made it," Federer said after accepting the trophy from Australian great Rod Laver, who lends his name to the main stadium at Melbourne Park.

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    Serena claims 23rd major title in finals win against Venus

    Serena Williams 2017 Australian Open Winner
    (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
    AP CBSNEWS

    Jan. 28, 2017

    MELBOURNE, Australia -- Serena Williams has won her record 23rd Grand Slam singles title, and her sister was right there on court to give her a congratulatory hug.

    The all-Williams final - the first at the Australian Open since Serena won the first edition of the family rivalry here in 2003 - went to the younger sibling 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday night.

    With her record seventh Australian title, the 35-year-old Williams moved ahead of Steffi Graf for the most major titles in the Open era. Margaret Court has the all-time record and was also in the crowd for the final at Rod Laver Arena.

    Court won 24 majors, but collected 13 of those before the Open era which began in 1968 after the sport became professional.

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    Venus, Vandeweghe have something to prove

    Venus Williams Breaks Record

     

    USA TODAY SPORTS

    January 24, 2017

     

    MELBOURNE — It’s not often that a sports superstar stays in the game long enough to receive accolades as the oldest to achieve a great milestone.

    At 36 years old, Venus Williams created that scenario for herself on a glorious Tuesday afternoon when she became the oldest women’s player to ever reach the Australian Open semifinals. Just for the record, if 35-year-old sister, Serena, also ventures into the semifinals on Wednesday, she will become the second oldest player to attain Australian Open semifinal status.

    The 13th-seeded Venus Williams moved on in grand style by scoring a 6-4, 7-6 (3) quarterfinal win over 24th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia at Melbourne Park. If the fans were impressed, Williams was thrilled, flashing a smile as bright as the Australian summer sun that was shining down on her from above.

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